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Economic Security: Traditional Sources

When the English-speaking colonists arrived in the New World they brought with them the ideas and customs they knew in England, including the “Poor Laws.” The first colonial poor laws were fashioned after those of the Poor Law of 1601. They featured local taxation to support the destitute; they discriminated between the “worthy” and the “unworthy” poor; and all relief was a local responsibility. No public institutions for the poor or standardized eligibility criteria would exist for nearly a century. It was up to local town elders to decide who was worthy of support and how that support would be provided. As colonial America grew more complex, diverse and mobile, the localized systems of poor relief were strained. The result was some limited movement to state financing and the creation of almshouses and poorhouses to “contain” the problem. For much of the 18th and 19th centuries most poverty relief was provided in the almshouses and poorhouses. Relief was made as unpleasant as possible in order to “discourage” dependency. Those receiving relief could lose their personal property, the right to vote, the right to move, and in some cases were required to wear a large “P” on their clothing to announce their status.

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Social Insurance & Social Security Chronology: Part V — 1960s

The following pages present a detailed historical chronology of the development of social insurance, with particular emphasis on Social Security. Items are included in this compilation on the basis of their significance for Social Security generally, their importance as precedents, their value in reflecting trends or issues, or their significance in Social Security Administration’s administrative history. The information includes legislative events in Social Security and related programs. Our expectation is that this Chronology can be used as a reference tool and finding aid for important dates and events in Social Security’s long history.

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Social Insurance & Social Security Chronology: Part IV — 1940s

The following pages present a detailed historical chronology of the development of social insurance, with particular emphasis on Social Security. Items are included in this compilation on the basis of their significance for Social Security generally, their importance as precedents, their value in reflecting trends or issues, or their significance in SSA’s administrative history. The information includes legislative events in Social Security and related programs. Our expectation is that this Chronology can be used as a reference tool and finding aid for important dates and events in Social Security’s long history.

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Social Insurance & Social Security Chronology: Part III – 1930s

The following pages present a detailed historical chronology of the development of social insurance, with particular emphasis on Social Security. Items are included in this compilation on the basis of their significance for Social Security generally, their importance as precedents, their value in reflecting trends or issues, or their significance in SSA’s administrative history. The information includes legislative events in Social Security and related programs. Our expectation is that this Chronology can be used as a reference tool and finding aid for important dates and events in Social Security’s long history.

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Social Insurance & Social Security Chronology: Part II – 1900s – 1920s

The following pages present a detailed historical chronology of the development of social insurance, with particular emphasis on Social Security. Items are included in this compilation on the basis of their significance for Social Security generally, their importance as precedents, their value in reflecting trends or issues, or their significance in SSA’s administrative history. The information includes legislative events in Social Security and related programs. Our expectation is that this Chronology can be used as a reference tool and finding aid for important dates and events in Social Security’s long history.

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Social Insurance & Social Security Chronology: Part I — 1600s — 1800s

The following pages present a detailed historical chronology of the development of social insurance, with particular emphasis on Social Security. Items are included in this compilation on the basis of their significance for Social Security generally, their importance as precedents, their value in reflecting trends or issues, or their significance in Social Security Administration’s administrative history. The information includes legislative events in Social Security and related programs. Our expectation is that this Chronology can be used as a reference tool and finding aid for important dates and events in Social Security’s long history.

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Social Responsibility for Individual Welfare

We have to recognize that our type of capitalism in this country is different from what the same word connotes in some other countries. From the time of the last depression we have taken great strides in the recognition of the responsibility of government and industry to cooperate to prevent any disasters to the normal economy of the country. We have to be prepared to meet disasters caused by nature. These we expect the government to cooperate in meeting, but we recognize the responsibility of industry today as well as of the individual. We believe that together we should strive to give every individual a chance for a decent and secure existence and in evolving our social patterns we are trying to give both hope for better things in the future and security from want in the present.

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Are We Overlooking the Pursuit of Happiness?

“…For the old people who have lived so long a life of independence, how bitter it must be to come for everything they need to the youngsters who once turned to them!

From every point of view, it seems to me that the old age pension for people who so obviously could not lay aside enough during their working years to live on adequately through their old age, is a national responsibility and one that must be faced when we are planning for a better future.

Unemployment insurance in many homes is all that stands between many a family and starvation. Given a breathing spell, a man or woman may be able to get another job or to re-educate himself in some new line of work, but few people live with such a wide margin that they have enough laid aside to face several months of idleness….”

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Old Age Pensions – Eleanor Roosevelt (1934)

“…We can hardly be happy knowing that throughout this country so many fine citizens who have done all that they could for their young people must end their days divided–for they usually are divided in the poorhouse. Old people love their own things even more than young people do. It means so much to sit in the same old chair you sat in for a great many years, to see the same picture that you always looked at!

And that is what an old age security law will do. It will allow the old people to end their days in happiness, and it will take the burden from the younger people who often have all the struggle that they can stand. It will end a bitter situation–bitter for the old people because they hate to be a burden on the young, and bitter for the young because they would like to give gladly but find themselves giving grudgingly and bitterly because it is taking away from what they need for the youth that is coming and is looking to them for support. For that reason I believe that this bill will be a model bill and pass without any opposition this year.”

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Committee on Economic Security – 1934

The President’s Committee on Economic Security (CES) was formed in June 1934 and was given the task of devising “recommendations concerning proposals which in its judgment will promote greater economic security.” In a message to Congress two weeks earlier President Roosevelt spelled-out what he expected the CES to achieve. “. . . I am looking for a sound means which I can recommend to provide at once security against several of the great disturbing factors in life–especially those which relate to unemployment and old age.”

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